The Master Plan
Stars: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, and Jon Bernthal
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Scriptwriter: Zach Baylin
Composer: Kris Bowers
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 138 Minutes
Will Smith is back in action and it is action on a tennis court. Smith plays Richard Williams, the father of tennis pro’s Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton). Wife Brandi (Aunjanue Ellis from “The Help”) also had three daughters. This is the story of Venus and Serena, virtually rags to riches in a competitive field using a racket, ball, court and net. This is, also, the story of their father, who directed the girls lives through his master plan. Their talent is never in question. One against one---or two against two in doubles. 2021 seems to be the year for sports films, from rowing to tennis. Smith dominates this film, so it is not too early to say Oscar nomination is around the corner.
The film starts with the family living in Compton. Richard sees the girls’ interest in tennis, which is a game played by the rich. However, that doesn’t stop him from find a coach, Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn) and the girls’ lives are practice, practice, practice. However, where to practice? It got to be a challenge to find a court that didn’t have gangs nearby and the wealthy courts were almost impossible to enter for a black family. The girl’s skills are being sharpened and it is apparent they each have tennis-talent which is becoming noticed. An invitation to an exclusive training center is managed by Venus, and they meet Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal) at his Center in Florida. The girls are on their way to tennis stardom.
Now, back at the home, Brandi notices all the attention Richard is giving to Venus and Serena is starting to be in the background. Richard gets a look at the inner feelings of a woman feeling left behind. It is bad enough to fight racism, but another to have a battle at home about attention. You see that Richard has his flaws, but once he is focused, away he goes. As for the two actresses, Sidney and Singleton, their scenes with Richard are telling in wanting to win and yet sometimes, having to put up with Dad.
For any parent who has a child in sports, you can relate to the enthusiasm of preparation for an event, including training at odd hours, the moments before the match and then cheering them on during the match or game, and afterward. If it is a win, everyone celebrates, and if not, you commiserate. In “King Richard,” family is everyone, though in this case, there are three stand-outs. Richard and his ego, and the two tennis stars. One wonders what the other three daughters thought at the time.
Will Smith brings an energetic spirit to the role of Richard Williams. Whether ups or downs, Smith is on target in his role. The two actresses, Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney, keep a steady pace in their scenes and this could have been difficult with Will Smith’s natural energy. As a three-some, they were against the world. Aunjanue Ellis as Brandi, shows concern when she has to stand up for Serena, and comes through fine. Just as in any match where there is a ball to follow for winning or losing, there are four actors to follow here. Anyone for tennis?
Copyright 2021 Marie Asner